A Simple Approach to Mixing Audio

Boy am I excited to be writing this article here for you today. I am going to be talking about some fundamental mixing tactics that every new mixer should take into consideration. Now these tips don’t just have to apply to newbies, even advanced engineers can benefit too. So if you are brand spanking new, or just brushing up a bit, there will be something for you.

Equalization

I know some of the crucial mixing tactics can be boring but today these tips might peak your interest a little bit. After doing things like checking you monitoring levels, gain staging, adjusting your fader, it’s time to dig into the mix with the most powerful weapon you have: The Equalizer. Whether you want to admit it or not, most of your mixes’ sound is going to come from the EQ.

One very helpful thing you can do to get your EQ right is to do all of it in mono. This is going to make sure that you take away everything until it can be heard or felt even when they are overlapping. Try to keeping carving until you are able to make sense over everything in the mix. Once you have done that, then you can flip the switch and listen back in stereo.

EQ was one of the hardest tasks that I had to grasp but I watched a lot of YouTube videos, like the one below and I also took Graham Cochrane’s course on EQ – Jump Start to EQ.  You should check it out.  He does do a good job of breaking it down and making it simple for us every day folk lol.

The Good Old Compressor

Coming in second place, next to the EQ of course, would be the compressor. The compressor is like a partner to the EQ. EQ does all the cleaning up brings clarity to the tracks where compression will help create some impact and energy. Though compression is a powerful tool, it’s just as easy to abuse it. At the core of it, compression it pretty much just an automatic volume fader.

I like to make sure that the EQing portion of my mix is perfect even before I decide to take out the compressor. I take away everything that I feel doesn’t need to be there (with the EQ) then use the compressor to enhance what ever is left over. The result is a track that has both clarity and energy.

Time For Effects

After you have done your thing with the compressor and the EQ you should be able to here a pretty decent mix. The only thing that might be wrong is that it might sound a bit too dry or maybe like everything is jammed into a small room. This is exactly the right time to bring out some type of effects like reverbs and delays.

What we are trying to do is take our track that’s clear and energetic but just add in some space. We are trying to simulate the fact that the band was recorded at the same time, in the same space. Also reverb can sometimes help to pull things together. Also if you experiment with some delays on the vocal, you can put it in a space between the space that makes it sound full of life.

There you have, 3 simple techniques and strategy to take your mixes to the next level.

Practice Makes Perfect

No matter what profession you go into, there’s going to be a certain amount of practise that’s involved.  You’ve heard of the whole “10,000” hours thing haven’t you?  If you haven’t it basically just means that in order to master anything you need at least 10,000 hours of practice to accomplish mastery in anything.

Actually a lot of famous people recognize this.  Check out these qutoes:

“The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.” – Will Smith”
Will Smith

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
– Colin Powell

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

So ultimately it comes down to just working and butchering as many mixes as you possibly can.  I know it sounds kind of brash but it’s the truth. Even pro mixer Dave Pensado has stated how he has ruined a ton of mixes to get to where he is.

So how does one get this practise?

Over the course of time, the best route to getting access to high quality tracks was to just go out and meet people.  Go to open mics, go to shows and try to meet as many people as you possibly can.  You will make some new friends and hopefully you will get some tracks to mix.

The biggest problem with going this route is that most talented artists and bands usually have a budget and have already paid a studio/engineer to work on their songs.   They just don’t want an inexperienced engineer to touch their “baby” and potentially ruin it.  In this case, we have to settle and work with artists who are not quite as talented.  So now you’re spinning your wheels because you can’t get your hands on some seriously high quality tracks to mix.  So you are stuck in this rut of working on mediocre tracks (FOR FREE) trying to build a resume.

The only other option that I feel is viable is to pick up some high quality multitracks from Modern Mixing.  This gets you to your ultimate goal much faster – Having a resume of high quality tracks.  You can pick the genres you want and easily have (say 5) new tracks on your system in a matter of minutes.  You could mix those tracks in a week or two and then start prospecting new clients to pay you money instead of asking them to work with you for free.  Now you have a “customer” who wants your service instead of someone who wants your service for free.

Mastering

Ohh, the dark art of mastering, how we love it so much right?  We almost never know what to do because the information out there is just so vague or inaccurate.  I even find myself spinning my wheels a lot of the times and I’m never happy with how the finished product comes out.  I honestly just like to keep it simple.

So what do I do?

I honestly just use a a little compression, equalization, multiband compression and a limiter.  I try to make sure that the mix is absolutely killer so that I don’t have to do a lot during the master but when I do get to the master, it goes pretty quickly and smoothly.

For more training I honestly recommend picking up Ian Shephards course on Mastering.  That’s where I learned most of what I know and it has since served me super well.  Tell him I sent you ;)

Resources:

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